I have a lot of ideas. Years ago, I started collecting them in a Word document. By the time I shifted to putting them in the cloud, I had 73 pages of startup ideas. Now I store my ideas in a PBworks workspace, and I’ve added another 380 startup ideas to the pile. The point is that it’s relatively easy to come up with interesting ideas. It’s easy to ponder and polish those ideas in your mind as you go about your day job or domestic duties. What’s hard is turning them into realities.
Tips For Startup Founders Who Want to Develop an Idea
Recently, I saw a post on Hacker News which offered to pay hackers $5,000 to build the idea they’ve always wanted to build (but hadn’t). The poster would then spend $3,000 on marketing to assess the idea. In exchange for this $8,000 (and a bit of time), he would get 50% of the equity in the company.
Progress doesn’t come from unreasonable thinkers—it comes from unreasonable doers.
By any comparison with traditional angel and VC investment, it’s a terrible deal. You’re essentially selling stock at an $8,000 premoney valuation in an environment where most seed deals get done at a valuation in the multiple millions. Yet the person who offered the deal was overwhelmed with people applying to work with him.
People have so much trouble turning ideas into realities that they’re willing to take any deal that helps them do it, no matter how lopsided or unfair. I’ve helped dozens of entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. Here are just a few of my best hacks for turning ideas into realities, and you don’t even have to give up equity for them!
1. Write a press release for your product launch.
It’s far too easy to have vague notions about what might happen if you pursue your idea, but you probably don’t want to skip straight to building your product. Instead, take an hour or two and write the press release for your launch. If you can’t do it with a straight face, you ought to reconsider your idea. And the process of trying to write your launch announcement ought to highlight the key things you need to do to build your credibility.
2. Sell your product on eBay/Amazon.
It’s trendy to put things on Kickstarter, but the reality is that most products aren’t amenable to true crowdfunding. If you’re able to get $10 million on Kickstarter, kudos to you! But if you aren’t an electronic gadget or video game, the results might not tell you much. Instead, use the built-in audiences available on eBay and Amazon to test out your pitch. You don’t even need a web site of your own (a shockingly high barrier for non-techies).
3. Turn your initial product into a service.
Products are harder to launch than services. Anyone can hang up a shingle as a consultant; building a real product takes much more effort. But a product that can’t succeed as a high-touch service is unlikely to succeed as a low-touch product.
Come up with the service equivalent of what you want to build. Then try to sell it, even if it’s to friends and family. This accomplishes two things—first, you get some actual market validation. Second, you get direct, intimate exposure to the target market and its actual needs.
No investor in the world is going to invest based on this, but that’s not the point. Your goal is to figure out for yourself if the idea is worth pursuing further. Even if you find out that it’s not, isn’t that better than wasting your time on it for years and years?